Why Everyone Should Have Multiple Streams of Income to Survive What’s Coming

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by Patrice Lewis

It’s among the most dreaded news imaginable: You’ve been laid off from your job. In the last few months, this scenario has played out for untold millions of people. Suddenly your financial security is gone, and everything you’ve worked for has been snatched away.

When most people lose their jobs, they panic. There are bills to pay, a mortgage to maintain, car payments to make. How will they survive without their job? Frantically they update their résumé and commence the often-disheartening round of answering want ads or blasting out their credentials on the internet, begging someone – anyone – to employ them.

But there are better ways.

We’ve experienced that dreaded pink slip, so for nearly three decades my husband and I have taken an alternate view on income. Rather than putting all our eggs in one basket and pinning our financial strategy on a single income source, we’ve developed a number of lower-paying part-time gigs – in other words, multiple income streams.

I call this the “many irons in the fire” method of earning a living. The idea is if one iron disappears, you have multiple other irons still sizzling in the fire and won’t be left destitute. You can then concentrate on honing those other irons into larger producers, either until such time as you find another “primary” job, or decide to permanently shift into having multiple part-time jobs.

For almost 30 years, our primary income source has been a home woodcraft business. But we’ve supplemented that income with endless side gigs: freelance writing, news editing, managing blogs, selling farm products, writing ebooks, etc. Some of these gigs were temporary. Others were more hassle than they were worth (such as managing a business in a nearby town) and were soon dropped. Others have been fairly steady and dependable. Collectively, I call this a “freelance lifestyle.”

What kind of jobs?

This all sounds great, but the $64,000 question remains: What kind of jobs? What do you do to earn money?

Sorry, I can’t answer that for you. I have no idea of your talents, interests, education, skills, or work ethic. I won’t advise you on nebulous money-making opportunities involving stuffing envelopes or pyramid schemes.

But what I can tell you is this: Make money any way you can. We know one fellow who operates heavy machinery, flies helicopters, and raises bison. We know a woman who cleans houses, sells crafts, and substitute teaches. Yet another woman sells produce at farmer’s markets, babysits children for a working mother, and does desktop publishing projects for local businesses. Daisy has some other suggestions in this article.

Laying multiple income irons in the fire is a matter of harvesting any and all experience, interests, potential, or opportunities you’ve ever experienced. Seize any (legal, ethical) means to earn money, since you never know where it might lead. In our case, we give preference for jobs we can do from home. The internet has transformed the ability to exploit your skills without ever leaving the house. People have done everything from remote teaching (foreign languages? music?) to becoming an online travel agent to blog maintenance to moderating forums to operating ticket sales to freelance writing.

For a more hands-on approach, it’s again a matter of exploiting whatever skills or experience you’ve cultivated in the past. Have you waitressed? Fixed computers? Built crafts? Driven a truck? Tutored children? Babysat? Are you clever at organizing, baking, carpentry, welding, or painting? Seriously, all of these can be transformed into money-making opportunities.

But here’s the kicker: Usually these will not become full-time jobs. These gigs will usually be part-time work. Deal with it.

That’s the thing about many irons in the fire. Perhaps not many of these irons can supply a full-time income, but income from numerous irons can get pretty darned close – $500 here, $1000 there, and pretty soon you’re earning a decent collective paycheck.

It’s also nice to be your own boss. Sure you might have deadlines, sure you might have customers to please, but it sure beats working for someone you don’t like.

And – very importantly – a freelance lifestyle means you’re less vulnerable to the cancel culture. If your income is not tied with the need to keep your mouth shut and your head low lest you get fired by an intolerant employer, you’re freer to speak your mind about whatever concerns you.

The benefit of side gigs

A surprising number of people don’t bother developing side gigs, which is unfortunate and short-sighted. Side gigs not only bring in supplemental income, but you never know what may develop into solid long-term potential. Some might turn out to be more trouble than they’re worth; others might become extraordinarily lucrative, and all will provide both income and experience.

The side gigs most likely to succeed are those that are reasonably recession-proof. This means people still need or want the product or service, no matter how tough the economy is.

Some examples of recession-proof businesses include: butchers, seed companies, food production (truck farming, garden seedlings), childcare, beauty care (hairdressing, etc.), repair services (everything from shoes to engines), etc. If you can develop a side gig providing something people need no matter what, you’ve got a toe-hold.

Dealing with financial insecurity

If you’re used to the unwavering security of a twice-a-month paycheck, then a gig lifestyle may take some getting used to. A lot of people don’t like the financial insecurity of part-time work or freelancing because they prefer the security of a well-paying, dependable job. Unfortunately, as millions have learned in the last few months, well-paying dependable jobs aren’t as secure as we like to think. They can disappear in a moment.

But there’s no question a freelance lifestyle means your income is seldom dependable. For this reason, it’s critical to scale back your spending. This can range from big (sell your expensive house with the huge mortgage payments) to the small (skip the daily latté). In a freelance lifestyle, it’s important to plug the leaks to keep your financial boat afloat. It’s also critical to avoid debt whenever possible.

A freelance lifestyle means being flexible in what you’re willing to do, and utilizing the broad range of talents you undoubtedly possess. You’d be surprised how far intangible qualities can go when it comes to picking up extra jobs, part-time or otherwise. A work ethic, showing up on time, honesty, dependability … these are assets everyone values. We have a neighbor who landed a superb job because he was (literally) the only applicant who passed the drug test.

Keep in mind that all part-time income is subject to taxes, but those taxes won’t be withheld automatically. You will have to declare all income on your taxes, and possibly file separate Schedule C forms when April 15 rolls around. I strongly urge you to always be honest and above-board with all part-time income. The hassle of filing and paying taxes is far better than the hassle of an audit and fines from the IRS.

It takes time

Very few endeavors become instant financial successes. Be patient and allow things to come to fruition. If you still have a full-time (or even part-time) outside job, don’t give it up on the touching and misplaced hope that your freelance income will be able to replace your steady job. Instead, just work on cultivating side gigs.

If you’ve lost your job in the economic downturn and are unable to find another, then you have nothing to lose. Throw yourself full-time into developing any and all side gigs you can find.

Given a choice, opt for side gigs that allow you to work from home. The more you can bring your income into the house, the more flexible you are to work anywhere, including in a more rural location away from urban chaos

What does the future hold?

Right now there’s a lot of uncertainty in the world, and no one knows what the future will bring. Three tactics – multiple income streams, frugality, and paring down living expenses – will help carry you through the toughest times.

You can either earn more or spend less. We opted for the latter. In the face of what might turn out to be another Great Depression, spending less is also the most logical and sustainable choice.

Our freelance lifestyle wasn’t always easy or straightforward. We made some stupid financial mistakes in our younger days, but we also learned the art of frugality and kept our living expenses low. Even now, after nearly 30 years of living a freelance lifestyle, we still look for ways to pare down expenses.

What we’ve learned is this: It’s better to have ten income streams each paying $400 per month than a single income stream paying $4,000 per month. Losing one iron of the former is an annoyance. Losing the one single iron of the latter is devastating.

Don’t let your ego get in the way of developing income streams. Don’t be too proud to accept humble work. Remember, DoorDash is always hiring.

About Patrice

Patrice Lewis is pleased to announce the availability of the complete collection of 52 Country Living Series ebooklets, representing over 17 years of homesteading experience. Subjects include preparedness, gardening, frugality, rural skills, food preservation, and more.

Why Everyone Should Have Multiple Streams of Income to Survive What\'s Coming
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  • Although this might help in some circumstances , in the short term, it is a bad direction to go.
    Having to many iron is the fire means you will probably miss the indicators of the coming collapse, the resulting riots and chaos, until it is to late.
    I think we are well on the path to this right now.

    Most of these side gig opportunities, disappeared with the lock down, at least temporarily.
    The truth is that there are more people, than there are jobs in a good economy, let alone in a bad one.
    Something the Author seem to miss.
    Here is the problem: cognitive dissonance. Preppers should know better than to fall for that.
    If you are properly prepped, you should be reasonably financially stable also.
    You should have 6 months to a year of income in savings( or rather in cash, tucked away, not in the bank).
    Take this time to reaccess your priorities. For go the ” new” car, the new phones or gadgets, the better house. Reduce your food consumption, get in shape.
    Take time to down size, reduce your financial costs and get stable(financially prepped) if you are not there already.

    That is much better than wearing yourself out with 2 or 3 part time jobs, so that you are in no shape to endure SHTF. Think about it.

    • Hi, Mic. The cognitive dissonance may be yours:

      “If you are properly prepped, you should be reasonably financially stable also.
      You should have 6 months to a year of income in savings( or rather in cash, tucked away, not in the bank).”

      That’s ideal, certainly. But the hit people have taken this year so far in many, many different industries would suggest that the emergency funds have probably already been used, at least in part. If people have already lost their jobs or if they’re on tenuous ground, they’re not going to have this kind of money put away. That doesn’t mean they didn’t prep “properly.” We can only do what is humanly possible with the money we have coming in and going out. So while I agree cutting expenses is vital, it’s only one strategy in what should be a very multifaceted plan to survive this financial disaster.

      Just because your world may not have changed, it doesn’t mean that other people’s worlds have also remained consistent.

      • As of this morning 54 million Americans have now applied for jobless benefits for the first time since the CV19 lockdown began.
        Many of them have burned through their savings. Many have had to get loans from friends or family.
        Some are having to go to food banks.
        Others are moving back in with their parents.
        Many lives have been disrupted on various levels and for some, it may be years or even a decade before they will return to pre-CV19 levels.

  • Don’t forget all the insurance “the employer” pays (which your production must pay him for). You don’t have those benefits.
    Conversely, consider taxes you pay out. If your home gardening produces $300 of food, you not only get far fresher, tastier and more nutritious eats, you also pay no income taxes. If you’re in a 25% tax bracket, you’d need to earn $400 to pay the taxes and take home the $300. Plus, you save gasoline and time driving.
    If a business produces less than $600 a year (maybe more now), you don’t need to fill out the schedule C for it. Limit to how useful that is.
    Saving up to buy instead of paying interest, and buying in bulk help too.

    A penny saved is tax-free.

  • We have one regular wage earner, and then three different small businesses that bring in nice incomes. One thing I learned after leaving my corporate job was that a) you can live on less than you think and b) you can make money other ways than a direct deposited paycheck.

  • One way to generate a list of possible income generators is to run a search on Amazon in the books section for SIDE HUSTLE. That will pull up quite a list of relevant titles, most of which should be available via free interlibrary loans.

    –Lewis

    • @Not So Free,
      Good one!

      I did read an article from a former SS board member. She said with CV19, the lack of payroll taxes, SS may actually run out by 2029.
      The wife and I have been planning for retirement (IF it were to happen) as if SS was not there.

  • I have had a 2nd job since I divorced at 43 years old. Started working at a national chain copy shop on weekends. When I got pink slipped at my county government job, the copy shop was happy to have me full time. I worked my way up to store manager. I am retired now with a state pension and a federal pension. I had a nice 401(k) savings from the copy shop that I rolled over to an IRA. Lost every bit of the IRA in the 2008 bust. Lost my husband, lost my home, lost my job and my savings. I even had to rent out rooms in my house. I feel like I cannot count on anything, so even though I am retired with what should be reliable pensions, I manage a cemetery as a part time paying job. (Who knew this could be an occupation?) I have never owned a home again but I have never gone without necessities.

    • I’m so sorry for all the difficulties you have gone through. I’m glad that you haven’t gone without necessities. Hang in there, friend!

      • Thanks, Daisy, but I dont feel sorry for myself. I feel triumphant. I conquered life and I have a stockpile of preps that would make most people drool.

  • I am on my 5th day without a cigarette. No patch, no vaping just cold turkey and a prayer for help. 7 dollars a pack should save some cash. Daisy you should remember me as Copout? Pray for me, for us all.

    • I sure do! It’s nice to hear from you again, Warrior60! And congratulations – keep up the great work on stopping smoking. 🙂

  • Thanks for the insightful article and the encouragement to fully think through our skill sets and engineer our livelihood for the future. Part of being a prepper is adaptability and realizing that best laid plans (even those 6 months worth of cash under the mattress) can be brought to nothing in the wrong circumstance. Having an entrepreneurial mindset and developing business acumen, the ability to read our community’s needs and pairing our skills to those are invaluable.

  • Has Mic ever had a side hustle? I have. After moving to the country I’ve sold jam & pies at the Farmers Market making upwards of $600 to $1,200 every Saturday. I’ve sold writing articles for $250/article. Bought used furniture and resold later for a profit. Lots of women clean vacation cabins during the summer here and make $60k working only May to August. Neighbors sell hay and moonshine. My sons work 2 jobs during the summer, one at our family business and another at night on weekends at the local watering hole as bar backs carrying the heavy beer to the cute girl bartender ($150-$350/night. A few help out at the local school as either substitute teachers or cooking lunches. The younger men work as guides on hunting ranches where hunters pay huge money to shoot animals and leave big tips. Older guys with tractors clear land with a brush hog. The list is endless.

    • And??? Whether Mic has or has not had a “side hustle” (man that’s a stupid name for a part-time job) is irrelevant. The idea of four part-time jobs to make 35000/year with zero benefits is not better than a job paying 35000/year with benefits. There’s something handy about being able to take your children to the dentist or doctor when they need more care than mom or dad can provide. Then there is the cost of those medical/benefits coming out of pre-taxed income. Throw in laws that mandate either purchasing overpriced insurance or paying tax penalties, and the decision should be simple for most people.

      I understand that is not viable or feasible for some people. It doesn’t make it a worse option that serial part-time labor.

      A couple having jobs at different employers makes sense. Seeking anything/everything employment because of job loss makes a lot of sense. Delivering pizzas makes more money than doing nothing.

      The author appears to be advocating for a lifestyle more so than an employment strategy. If that lifestyle works for you, then rock on. This would be where that millennial expression “you do you” applies.

      • Have you actually read the article? We are not saying high paying, well stuffed benefits isn’t a good thing. We are saying……..They. Aren’t. There!
        I worked for AT&T when we employed more people than the Federal Government. I never had to think about my benefits (well padded, company paid for, and generous), my salary was top of the line, and the world was my oyster when it came to job promotions. Now? People with 28 YEARS of service, literally 2 years or less from the exhaulted Promised Land of full benefits and lucrative retirement income are praying not to be laid off. Both management and craft employees. AT&T no longer offers pensions………whatever YOU put away, they will match up to 6%. Good luck and don’t let the door hit you where the Lord split you-on your way out. There are no job promotions, but plenty of jobs are going overseas at 15% of a US salary, and the workers train their replacements. THIS from a company that developed the mighty telecommunicatons of the world! Multiply this fiasco over the entire country, and you now know why folks are working multiple jobs. It is not 1955, and never will be again. You might want to reconsider how secure you are at where you work. People are replaced every hour of every day, from the bottom to the top. No one is immune.

        • I sure did. Question is: Did you? I suppose I view articles of this nature differently than some.

          I read this as advocacy for the “freestyle lifestyle.” Reading how they make $64,000/year with no context creates a positive impression with the impressionable. The author made no mention of the total time invested or the sacrifices made to sustain their family.

          If you cannot find a stable 40/week type job, you will hustle your [email protected]# off to feed your kids. You’ll also figure out fast what matters and what were niceties.

          Yes, in the past four months, many millions lost their jobs, either temporarily or permanently. Yes, those families are suffering. Yes, those parents are stressed and trying to figure out how to make ends meet. Yes, there are options to make money above and below board. Yes, $20 is $20. But the idea of charting a deliberate new path as a full-time part-time worker over continuing to look for single employer jobs takes a lot of thought, debate, and argument to come to. The general lack of stability is a big part of it, but so is the extra time required to close the gap is another.

          For every family unit that succeeds in surviving off gig employment, there are several more that need a ride into town.

          Knowledge is power. YRMV.

  • Whether Mic has ever worked multiple side jobs IS relevant. The old saying “Don’t knock it until you try it” speaks volumes. Mrs. Lewis spoke from 30 years of hard earned experience and came from the school of hard knocks. Daisy is known for writing articles based on hard won wisdom such as Selco living in a war zone. Relevant experience matters. Even during the pandemic, our 34 year family business hit RECORD profits in 2020. As Daisy explained it’s all about perspective. Not all part time work is low paying either. Yes lifestyle is a big reason those of us are Entrepreneurs. That’s not the focus of the article. The author wrote about their family’s wisdom gained from 30 years of earning multiple revenue streams that worked! That’s the advice I’ll listen too every time. I sure wouldn’t take swimming lessons from someone that doesn’t know how to swim…

    • I have 30+ years of ‘hard knocks’ work experience too. I’ve made a fortune and squandered a fortune. I’ve rebuilt a comfortable life, and lost that comfortable life. I’ve underbid jobs and lost my [email protected]&. I’ve bid the minimum to break even and lost the bids, knowing someone else just lost their [email protected]$. I’ve worked jobs that required 60+ hour weeks (for 40 hour paychecks), and 16 hour days without end. Its all a learning experience.

      One of the biggest things I’ve learned is time spent away from home can never be bought back. All those missed bed-time stories, missed soccer games, cancelled camping trips, missed scout meetings, etc.. can’t be bought back. It showed me the value of a stable job. Being home in the evenings and weekends allowed me to spend time with my family. Building a chicken coop from a fuzzy picture on the internet, basic firearms safety and marksmanship, general survival skills, how to change a wheel hub on a jeep, auto maintenance, etc. Each one doesn’t mean much by itself, but when they are added together, they taught basic life skills. I couldn’t have done that working three or four gig or part-time jobs. That’s opportunity cost. That is what is not discussed in the article.

      Yes, that is the very heart of the article. The title is “Why Everyone Should Have Multiple Streams of Income to Survive What’s Coming.” It wasn’t “Why you should know more than one profession heading into the Apocalypse” or “Finding employment opportunities in the Apocalypse,” it spoke directly to avoiding market insecurity by leaving the traditional marketplace in favor of multiple gig or part-time jobs.

      It advocates for a ‘many irons in the fire’ income generation approach. As a philosophy that’s not half bad. Insulating your family from market uncertainty makes sense, just like it makes sense as an investment strategy, or prepping strategy. But this isn’t as simple as diversifying a stock portfolio, or prepping beets AND turnips. There is real downside associated with any non-standard work approach/philosophy.

      Entrepreneurs typically invest much more time into a business venture than salaried employees. Its their name on the shingle, and their level of effort directly affects the business’ future, especially in those early, lean years.

      As for multiple part-time jobs, there is opportunity costs associated with that as well. The biggest is the usual loss of medical/dental benefits, and 401k matching. Lesser discussed costs, but no less relevant to the family is the additional lost time. The lost time comes from gaps in schedules from job 1 to job 2 and lost family time (if you like that kind of stuff). It means more hustling to and fro in your life, and often more time away from home.

      There are a million permutations possible in a full-time part-time lifestyle. There is no one answer that can or will work for everyone. For every ‘high paying’ gig or p/t job, there are hundreds of low paying ones built on the idea of employing kids who are supported by family. If there were millions of great paying part-time jobs, the US employment model would be vastly different.

      Yes, we can respect the author’s view point without supporting the philosophy. They made it work for them for 30 years. Completely respectable. But the author didn’t spend any time discussing the risks, sacrifices, and stresses they went through to get where they are. These are topics readers need to see, and hopefully think through before they risk a major course correction as the author proposes.

      Knowledge is power. YRMV.

  • I have a ‘stable’ government job but I’m a huge proponent in side hustling…. side hustling has enabled us to create substantial margin in our monthly budget, teach my son about running a business, pay down our mortgage at an accelerated rate and build an emergency fund.

    Our side hustles are mostly around our homestead… in addition to income creation each allow us to save substantial money.

    This year we hope to bring in:

    Firewood — $4000
    Hatching specialty breeds of chickens/fertilized eggs — $4000
    Selling eggs – $600
    Selling Dairy goat kids – $1200-$2000

  • Starting your own business/side hustle/ part time job can help you to attain full time jobs with benefits. When potential employers look at your resume and see that you have started your own business, they will likely be more impressed than if they see a long period of unemployment. They will be more likely to see you as somebody with initiative and a strong work ethic and not someone that nobody else want to employ.

    • Yes, I got back in the job market after I got my insurance license and food handlers’ certificate. I got a job at a school cafeteria because I had a current food handlers’ certificate and prior kitchen experience. I have my weekends to call on my life insurance clients

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